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The New York Times February 18, 1951
City Treatment of Teen-Age Addicts held Inadequate--Growing Problem Seen

The ratio of relapse among narcotic addicts who have "taken the cure" is very high.

Only one-fifth of the patients who underwent the full six-month treatment at the Federal narcotics Hospital in Lexington, Ky., were found, in a follow­up survey, to have remained "off the stuff." Thirty-five per cent had returned to the hospital or appeared in police stations as narcotics "repeaters." Forty­five per cent of the former patients could not be traced, and hospital officials believe a large number of the untraccables [sic] were backsliders.

The record of those voluntary patients who, against medical advice, left the hospital with less than thirty days' treatment is even more dismal. The follow­up showed one out of 2,500 had remained abstinent, 14.4 per cent had turned up as repeaters, 84.8 per cent could not be traced.

A group of former addicts, banded together as Narcotics Anonymous, is fighting backsliding by methods similar to those used by Alcoholics Anonymous.

Treatment Here Inadequate

Teen-age addicts in New York City who undergo detoxification at Bellevue of Kings County Hospitals get less than thirty days' institutional treatment. Many are turned out in eight days because of crowding. The inadequacy of this treatment was readily admitted by Dr., Marcus D. Kogel, commissioner of Hospitals, who said the municipal institutions did not have special facilities.

"This is something new," he said. "The influx of juvenile narcotics addicts has become a problem in our hospitals in the last year." Dr. Kogel suggested as an emergency measure that the state lease a settlement house or some other structure and establish immediately a public institution for narcotic addiction treatment. He remarked, however, that the problem of teen-age treatment might be temporary.

"While drug addiction among teen­agers is a horrible thing, I do not believe it is numerically serious," he declared.

Doubting the existence of any large number of "hidden cases," Dr. Kogel said the effects of narcotics on teen­agers--- both physically and through the necessity of obtaining money to feed the costly habit--- were such that most youthful users of illegal drugs could not continue unexposed for long.

Dr. Kogel said the two city institutions appeared already to have passed the peak of their juvenile addict censuses. The number of cases in Bellevue dropped last week from 37 to 23, and in Kings County Hospital form four to none, he said. He voiced the belief that the recent influx was due to increased police activity against narcotics peddlers, and to publicity that had "flushed out" many "scared kids."

Maybe, he suggested, the narcotics addiction problem will shrink so much within the next two years as to remove the need for a special institution here.

If a Fad, It May Fade

A tentative hopefulness likewise was expressed by Dr. Victor H. Vogel, head of the Federal Hospital at Lexington. Reporting that some of his young patients had told him they had taken their first sniff of heroin because it was considered "the sharp thing to do" in their "crowd," Dr. Vogel said:

"If this thing is a fad, then like other fads it may fade. But it will take time to disappear because each victim requires follow­up treatment."

Commissioner Vogel's optimistic appraisal of the extent of juvenile addiction was in contrast to the views of other New York officials and social workers, who are alarmed. District Attorney Frank S. Hogan has said the increase in youthful addiction was "marked" between 1946 and 1949, and has been "shocking" since then.

Pointing out that arrest figures do not tell the entire story, Dr. Perry M. Lichtenstein, medical adviser to Mr. Hogan, reported a 200 per cent increase last year in the number of youthful addicts who came to his attention, few of whom were defendants. An even stronger case for the extent of "hidden" addiction was made by a social worker who said investigation in one neighborhood had disclosed eighteen youthful addicts, of whom only one had ever been in court.

Actually, no one knows to what extent narcotics addiction has taken hold among the city's teen­agers. Mayor Impellitteri admits he doesn't know. Police Commissioner Thomas F. Murphy, chairman of a committee named last December by the Mayor to study the problem is trying to find out. So is a special committee set up by the Welfare Council.

Representative Louis B. Heller, Democrat of Brooklyn, offered in Congress last week a bill to establish a joint Senate-House committee to study the narcotics problem, with special reference to sales to minors.

The Mayor said yesterday that the city's law enforcement, welfare and health agencies were giving serious attention to the question.

"I am pleased," he said, "with the increased police activity which has rid our streets of many narcotics peddlers. The Department of Hospitals is making maximum use of its limited facilities to give emergency treatment to some young addicts. Other municipal agencies, including the New York City Youth Board, are working on the problem from the preventative angle.

"The secrecy with which addicts surround themselves makes it difficult, if not impossible, to determine how many young people have fallen victims to this disease. I am confident that the spread of addiction will be halted with the aid of this committee."

Commissioner Murphy said there was no way to measure accurately the extent of addiction, but "the increase in the number of arrests for sale and possession and the crowded condition of the Federal Public Health Service Hospital at Lexington certainly indicate a rise in addiction, especially among teen­agers."

The increase in teen­age cases at the Lexington hospital is shown in the hospital's census breakdown, indicating that while only three per cent of the patients admitted in 1946 were teen­agers, this age group represented eighteen per cent of last year's new cases. Of 15,000 individuals treated at Lexington since the institution was opened in 1935, forty per cent have returned more than once.

The more detailed follow­up survey, made in 1948, attempted to check on patients who had been discharged between Jan 1, 1940, and Dec. 31, 1947. Pointing out that most of them had been adults, De. Vogel said:

"Inasmuch as many of the teen­age addicts do not have strongly organized personality or psychiatric disorders, and considering the fact that being under age we do not discharge them against advice except upon the request of their parents, treatment results may be significantly better than for the older group."

The New York group of former patients at Lexington, organized as Narcotics Anonymous, holds weekly meetings at one of the Salvation Army buildings. Its members do preventative work with some youth groups and are available day and night to help.

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